It was a SportsCenter Top 10-like play and the Juneau-Douglas High School basketball fans loved every second of it.
Early in the fourth quarter of the 4A Boys Region V Championship Saturday night between JDHS and Ketchikan, senior Jordan Milligan stole and dished the ball to Bryce Swofford at the free throw line, who then wristed a behind-the-back pass to a cutting Kasey Watts for two points.
The score was part of a 10-2 JDHS run between the third and fourth quarters, a stretch which secured the Crimson Bears 60-56 win over Ketchikan for their second consecutive 4A Boys Region V championship.
“I really didn’t want to see someone [else] cut down the net at home,” said Swofford, a 6-foot-7 senior who finished the game with 12 points and seven rebounds.
Erik Kelly scored 18 points and hauled down 13 rebounds — including six offensive —while shooting 8-for-14 from the foul line.
“There was no doubt in my mind they were going to give us everything they had,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. “No matter the outcome, I knew that effort wasn’t going to be an issue at this tournament.”
Marcus Lee (12 points) scored transition layups and Jake Smith (22) made four 3-pointers, but JDHS subdued the other pieces of Ketchikan’s offense. Brent Taylor and Chris Lee scored six and five points respectively.
It was a long tournament for the host Crimson Bears, and featured only one scenario in which JDHS would return to the state tournament: win three straight games.
After falling to Thunder Mountain on Tuesday, the Crimson Bears beat the Falcons in a rematch Thursday (60-47) before beating Ketchikan by just four points respectively on Friday (55-51) and Saturday.
“Not a lot of people outside of this lockerroom or these four gym walls would of ever expected that this year,” Casperson said of returning to the state tournament. “But the boys did and they believed, and they knew that we would have to work hard to get there.”
“You just love when you preach to the kids that hard work and dedication are going to pay off and then it does for them. It doesn’t seem like a hollow commentary on their activities — it ends up being true for them — so I’m really proud of the guys, and the effort they put forth.”
The nifty, behind-the-back Swofford-to-Watts connection put the Crimson Bears up 45-37 with seven minutes left in the game.
The Kings ‘big three’ of Marcus Lee, Taylor and Smith responded, though: Taylor with a 3-point play, Smith with a putback and Lee with a jumper, cutting the JDHS lead to 51-50 with 2:45 remaining.
However, JDHS pushed the lead back to five a minute later with baskets from Swofford and Kolby Hoover. The Crimson Bears shot 5-for-7 from the free throw line in the final minute to maintain the lead and capture the Region V trophy.
“I feel like we are peaking at the right time of the year,” Casperson said. “We didn’t need to be playing our best basketball in December, we want to be here in March playing our best ball and I feel like that’s what were doing.”
Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.